Light on Nature

What is the impact of artificial light at night on our ecosystem?
Lightpost with red light in nature

We produce more and more light at night. Virtually everybody in Europe or the US lives in a light polluted place: all areas where artificial light always exceeds the light of the moon and the stars. These areas expand with about two percent per year, while already light polluted areas become even brighter at night.

Artificial light at night is impacting our nature extensively. Together with many other organisations, the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) is investigating these effects in the Light on Nature and Light on Landscape project. An important part of these studies is measuring the effects of experimental lighting in places that were previously dark. Nowadays, we can easily change the colour spectrum of lamplight, which could reduce potential harmful effects. Therefore, we investigate the effects not only of white light, but also of red and green light on plants and animals. We look at as many species groups as possible: plants, moths, bats, mice, mustelids and other mammals, birds and amphibians.

  • Exprimental gren lightning
    Experimental green lightning with more blue and less red
  • Experimental white lightning
    Experimental white lightning

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Scientific publications

Jägerbrand, A. K., and K. Spoelstra. Effects of anthropogenic light on species and ecosystems (2023). Science 380:1125–1130. download or PDF

Jabbur, M. L., C. Dani, K. Spoelstra, A. N. Dodd, and C. H. Johnson. Evaluating the Adaptive Fitness of Circadian Clocks and their Evolution (2024). Journal of Biological Rhythms:07487304231219206. download

Spoelstra, K., S. Teurlincx, M. Courbois, Z. M. Hopkins, M. E. Visser, T. M. Jones, and G. R. Hopkins. Long-term exposure to experimental light affects the ground-dwelling invertebrate community, independent of light spectra (2023). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 378:20220364. download (available in June 2024) 

Tomotani, B. M., F. Timpen, and K. Spoelstra. Ingrained city rhythms: flexible activity timing but more persistent circadian pace in urban birds (2023). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 290:20222605. download

Cieraad, E., E. Strange, M. Flink, M. Schrama, and K. Spoelstra. Artificial light at night affects plant–herbivore interactions (2023). Journal of Applied Ecology 60:400–410. download

Barré, K., I. Thomas, I. Le Viol, K. Spoelstra, and C. Kerbiriou. Manipulating spectra of artificial light affects movement patterns of bats along ecological corridors (2023). Animal Conservation 26:865–875.

van Dis, N. E., K. Spoelstra, M. E. Visser, and D. M. Dominoni. Color of Artificial Light at Night Affects Incubation Behavior in the Great Tit, Parus major (2021). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9.

Voigt, C. C., J. Dekker, M. Fritze, S. Gazaryan, F. Hölker, G. Jones, D. Lewanzik, H. J. G. A. Limpens, F. Mathews, J. Rydell, K. Spoelstra, and M. Zagmajster. The Impact Of Light Pollution On Bats Varies According To Foraging Guild And Habitat Context (2021). BioScience 71:1103–1109.

Hölker, F., J. Bolliger, T. W. Davies, S. Giavi, A. Jechow, G. Kalinkat, T. Longcore, K. Spoelstra, S. Tidau, M. E. Visser, and E. Knop (2021). 11 Pressing Research Questions on How Light Pollution Affects Biodiversity. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9.

Barré, K., K. Spoelstra, Y. Bas, S. Challe, D. Lapostolle, and C. Kerbiriou. Artificial light may change flight patterns of bats near bridges along urban waterways (2021). Animal Conservation 24:2 259-267. download(external link)

Barré, K., C. Kerbiriou, R.-K. Ing, Y. Bas, C. Azam, I. Le Viol, and K. Spoelstra. Bats seek refuge in cluttered environment when exposed to white and red lights at night (2021). Movement Ecology 9:3. download(external link)

van Grunsven, R. H. A., J. R. van Deijk, M. Donners, F. Berendse, M. E. Visser, E. Veenendaal, and K. Spoelstra. Experimental light at night has a negative long-term impact on macro-moth populations (2020). Current Biology 30:R694–R695. download(external link)

Boom, M. P., K. Spoelstra, A. Biere, E. Knop, and M. E. Visser. Pollination and fruit infestation under artificial light at night: light colour matters (2020). Scientific Reports 10:18389. download(external link)

Ulgezen, Z. N., Käpylä Teemu, Meerlo Peter, Spoelstra Kamiel, Visser Marcel E., and Dominoni Davide M. The preference and costs of sleeping under light at night in forest and urban great tits (2019). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 286:20190872. download(external link)

Dominoni, D M, J. K. Jensen, M. de Jong, M. E. Visser, and K. Spoelstra. Artificial light at night, in interaction with spring temperature, modulates timing of reproduction in a passerine bird (2019). Ecological Applications 30:e02062. download(external link)

Spoelstra, K., I. Verhagen, D. Meijer, and M. E. Visser. Artificial light at night shifts daily activity patterns but not the internal clock in the great tit (Parus major) (2018). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285:20172751.

Spoelstra, K., Ramakers, J. J. C., Dis, N. E. van, Visser, M. E. No effect of artificial light of different colors on commuting Daubenton’s bats (Myotis daubentonii) in a choice experiment. Journal of Experimental Zoology A (2018) download(externe link)

de Jong, M., K. P. Lamers, M. Eugster, J. Q. Ouyang, A. D. Silva, A. C. Mateman, R. H. A. van Grunsven, M. E. Visser, and K. Spoelstra. Effects of experimental light at night on extra-pair paternity in a songbird  (2018). Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological and Integrative Physiology 329, 4441-448. download(external link)

Welbers, A. A. M. H. et al. Artificial Light at Night Reduces Daily Energy Expenditure in Breeding Great Tits (Parus major). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5, (2017). download(external link)

Spoelstra, K., R. H. A. van Grunsven, J. J. C. Ramakers, K. B. Ferguson, T. Raap, M. Donners, E. M. Veenendaal, and M. E. Visser. Response of bats to light with different spectra: light-shy and agile bat presence is affected by white and green, but not red light (2017). Proc. R. Soc. B 284:20170075. download

Ouyang, J. Q., M. De Jong, R. H. A. Van Grunsven, K. D. Matson, M. F. Haussmann, P. Meerlo, M. Visser, and K. Spoelstra. What type of rigorous experiments are needed to investigate the impact of artificial light at night on individuals and populations? (2017) Global Change Biology 23. download

Ouyang, J. Q., M. de Jong, R. H. A. van Grunsven, K. D. Matson, M. F. Haussmann, P. Meerlo, M. E. Visser, and K. Spoelstra. Restless roosts: Light pollution affects behavior, sleep, and physiology in a free-living songbird (2017). Global Change Biology 23:4987–4994. download

De Jong, M., S. P. Caro, P. Gienapp, K. Spoelstra, and M. E. Visser. Early Birds by Light at Night: Effects of Light Color and Intensity on Daily Activity Patterns in Blue Tits (2017). Journal of Biological Rhythms 32:323–333. download

Langevelde, F. van, Grunsven, R. H. A. van, Veenendaal, E. M. & Fijen, T. P. M. Artificial night lighting inhibits feeding in moths. Biology Letters 13, 20160874 (2017). download

Da Silva, A. et al. Experimental illumination of a forest: no effects of lights of different colours on the onset of the dawn chorus in songbirds. Royal Society Open Science 4, 160638 (2017). download

Van Grunsven, R. H. A. van, Creemers, R., Joosten, K., Donners, M. & Veenendaal, E. M. Behaviour of migrating toads under artificial lights differs from other phases of their life cycle. Amphibia-Reptilia (2016). doi:10.1163/15685381-00003081 not available yet

van Grunsven R, Joosten K, Creemers R (2016) Effect straatverlichting op paddentrek. Tijdschrift RAVON 58(17) 56-58 download PDF

Jong, M. de. Illuminating a bird’s world: effects of artificial light at night on avian ecology. (2016). download

de Jong, M., Ouyang, J. Q., van Grunsven, R. H. A., Visser, M. E. & Spoelstra, K. Do Wild Great Tits Avoid Exposure to Light at Night? PLOS ONE 11, e0157357 (2016). download

de Jong, M. et al. Dose-dependent responses of avian daily rhythms to artificial light at night. Physiology & Behavior 155, 172–179 (2016). download / download SI

van Geffen, K. G. et al. Artificial light at night inhibits mating in a Geometrid moth. Insect Conservation and Diversity 8, 282–287 (2015). download

Van Geffen, K. G. et al. Artificial night lighting disrupts sex pheromone in a noctuid moth: Moth sex pheromone in illuminated nights. Ecological Entomology 40, 401–408 (2015). not avaliable yet

Swaddle, J. P. et al. A framework to assess evolutionary responses to anthropogenic light and sound. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 30, 550–560 (2015). download

Spoelstra, K. et al. Experimental illumination of natural habitat—an experimental set-up to assess the direct and indirect ecological consequences of artificial light of different spectral composition. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 370, 20140129 (2015). download / download SI

Ouyang, J. Q. et al. Stressful colours: corticosterone concentrations in a free-living songbird vary with the spectral composition of experimental illumination. Biology Letters 11, 20150517 (2015). download

Geffen, K. G. van. Moths in illuminated nights : articificial night effects on moth ecology. (Wageningen University, 2015). download

de Jong, M. et al. Effects of nocturnal illumination on life-history decisions and fitness in two wild songbird species. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 370, 20140128 (2015). download / download SI

van Grunsven, R. H. A., Lham, D., van Geffen, K. G. & Veenendaal, E. M. Range of attraction of a 6-W moth light trap. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 152, 87–90 (2014). not available yet

van Grunsven, R. H. A. et al. Spectral composition of light sources and insect phototaxis, with an evaluation of existing spectral response models. Journal of Insect Conservation 18, 225–231 (2014). download

van Geffen, K. G., van Grunsven, R. H. A., van Ruijven, J., Berendse, F. & Veenendaal, E. M. Artificial light at night causes diapause inhibition and sex-specific life history changes in a moth. Ecology and Evolution n/a-n/a (2014). doi:10.1002/ece3.1090 download

Spoelstra, K. & Visser, M. E. The impact of artificial light on avian ecology. in Avian Urban Ecology: Behavioural and Physiological Adaptations 21 (2013). view

Titulaer, M., Spoelstra, K., Lange, C. Y. M. J. G. & Visser, M. E. Activity Patterns during Food Provisioning Are Affected by Artificial Light in Free Living Great Tits (Parus major). PLoS ONE 7, e37377 (2012). download



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Kamiel Spoelstra

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